“This isn’t Hollywood. Stop trying to save the girl!”

Published: January 3, 2015

Should someone have done something? Realistically speaking, would she even want you to?

You only caught a glimpse of the girl as she walked down the corridor. She had short hair. You reverted the news back to your friends.

“A girl has moved into the room next door.”

You live in a shared apartment.

Everyone was excited. Your friends had called to congratulate you.

“What does she look like?”

“She has short hair.”

“That’s a good start.”

You heard the sounds of cardboard boxes being dragged down the corridor, and you realised that this is the most opportune time to clear your room off the dishes that had been piling up in one corner. You take your glasses off, pick up the dishes and put your glasses back on. You exit the room and catch sight of a man as he enters the room next door, carrying one cardboard box and pushing another with his foot. His aura suggests athleticism and a lack of patience you should keep a distance from.

You inform your friends of the disappointing turn of events, and they offer their commiserations. You forget about the girl and try to move on.

Today is the first time you hear the girl’s voice, loud enough for the deliveryman to look up as he counts the money you just handed him. This apartment is large but the building is old, and the walls are paper-thin, something you’ve only just realised. The previous tenants in the room next to yours were an old American couple that decided to try their luck in Egypt. Dubai had not been kind to them.

Loud voices don’t usually bother you. But after a while, the loud voices escalate and they begin to bother you. If the girl had been excited about something, the exclamations would have dissipated. The sound one makes when they are in pain tends to linger.

You go outside to investigate and stand next to their closed door. You can hear her crying, violently. She is screaming something in Arabic. Her language is as much of a barrier as the paper-thin walls you can’t see through. The man is saying something as well. Their tones are polar opposites. The girl is delirious and rambling, while the man is calm and controlled. His cadence suggests experience in these matters.

You start imagining the possibilities where the girl is not being hurt. Maybe this is some far-out role playing stuff that you are unaware of. Maybe they are having a better time than you think.

You keep standing in the corridor, straining to catch a chance of a single word in a language you understand. The man’s fist makes a sickening sound against the girl’s stomach. The unmistakable thud and her groan reach you in a harmony that does not need to be translated.  There are other people in this apartment besides you three. Why is no one else standing out here in the corridor with you?

You can hear her being strangled, just the sound of her voice barely escaping her body in illegible slews of Arabic.

Some people could be into that as well, but now you aren’t so sure. You panic.

You are no hero.

You go back to your room to decide the best course of action. You decide to call someone. Someone will know what the best course of action is.

“The girl with the short hair, her boyfriend’s beating her up.”

“No way.”

“He’s strangling her too.”

“That’s terrible.”

“I know. Someone should call the police.”

“Even if the police see a couple having a physical dispute they can’t intervene unless the woman asks them to.”

“He’s strangling her. Maybe someone should knock on the door.”

“What if you knock on the door and the guy punches you in the face?”

“Well, then the police…”

“And then when the police come and ask what happened, what if the girl is beaten up and she says you did it?”


“The girl says you were trying to rape her. And the boyfriend came just in time to punch your stupid face.”

“I’ll tell them…”

“They’ll believe the girl. The girl will protect her boyfriend.”

Self-preservation kicks in.

“This isn’t Hollywood.”

The path of least resistance.

“Stop trying to be a hero.”

You are no hero.

You hang up. You remember watching an episode of CSI where a police officer had alluded to some law where if a person does not report a crime, they too would be prosecuted. Is this a crime? You feel like you should research. There is a loud crash that permeates your thoughts of whether it was an episode of CSI New York or CSI Miami. You can’t find out because the WiFi has stopped working. The router is in their room. There is no WiFi.

The crash.

No WiFi.

This is getting serious.

While calling your landlord, you imagine him kicking down the door, making whatever is going on in that room stop immediately.  You will then scuttle towards the corner of the room to make sure the WiFi router is okay. You will then give the girl a soul-searching gaze with the router still cradled in your arms that will simultaneously imply you are the one who called the person who broke the door down. The girl will be beautiful.

You are her hero.

Everyone watches CSI together.

“Hello? Yes, you know the people next door? Well, they’ve been fighting for a really long time.”


“They’re screaming pretty loud. I think he’s strangling her. And they’ve broken the router.”

“Tomorrow I will move the router in your room.”

“Ah. Excellent. And the guy beating his girlfriend?”

“She is his wife.”

The landlord’s last sentence was said in a tone that cements the end of the conversation. She is his wife. Your arguments are invalid.

The noises eventually stop. The lack of WiFi allows you to self-reflect. You have had conversations related to violence against women before. You had always maintained that you would definitely do something if it ever were to happen in your proximity. Your nobility now seems convenient when it was not stark against a backdrop of consequences. You had reverted this incident to other people. Everyone was unsure of what they would do, if they would do anything at all.

When does a private matter become a public concern? Is chivalry really the most delicate form of contempt?

Should someone have done something?

Realistically speaking, would she even want you to?


Fyez Ahmed

A Dubai based writer who tweets once a month @fyezeatscake (twitter.com/fyezeatscake)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Assh

    women are abused even till dis day all over da part its sad to see that some men feel ok about they do …all in all an inspirational storyRecommend

  • Gp65

    Well the line between when is it interference in a private matter and when is it a duty of a citizen to protect a woman is indeed blurred – especially in Asian countries. Still in situations like this even anonymous calls to the police should be possible and they can then take the matter in their hands.

    The woman may defend her husband or may use the opportunity to seek freedom from the violence. At least you would have done your duty.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    This is winter, most guys own a balaclava for that chilly early morning ride on the bike. So get your face sock, put it on, grab your bat(preferably baseball, but cricket one will do too), knock on the the door, wait for the meat(I mean the husband) to open it, beat the carp(family blog here you know) out of him. Saunter back to your room, wipe off the bat and throw it on a bonfire.
    Rinse and repeat if the symptoms are recurring.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    I have had to deal with such situations and I’ve had bad experiences so now I think I wouldn’t interfere in cases of domestic violence.
    I am friends with a couple ; their relationship is abusive, dysfunctional. There was an incident where the husband slapped the wife twice in public. He thought no one was looking but some of us did see it. A friend and I both intervened and gave the guy an earful. But well, the wife abused and insulted us in return and told us to buzz off and mind our own business. We had warned the guy that we would call the police and his wife’s exact words to us were, ” if you call the police, I will ensure you fall in trouble with them and suffer”

    This woman is very successful professionally, she is financially independent, the couple is childless and her family will support her if she decides to walk out of that “marriage”. But she chooses to stay. It’s a choice she has made. So anyway, I would never intervene in any domestic “squabbles” henceforth. I don’t know if my choice is right or wrong but I feel that women can get help if they want. If they really want it.
    So the lady that I was talking about earlier and I met up one day. And she was badly bruised and seemed tearful. I didn’t ask her a thing. Just ignored her bruises and spoke like everything was normal. If she asks me for help, I will do everything in my power to help her but I will not be the one to initiate that conversation again.

    I had a Jordanian neighbour when I was in school. The wife spoke very little English but she was a sweetheart. She used to bake yummy cakes for me.But I digress.I used to study late into the night and well, the husband of that sweet woman followed some kind of sadistic ritual every night. He used to beat the crap out of that lovely lady. Precisely at 3am every night. Exactly at 3am. Every single night. It was some kind of a sick ritual, I think. I used to meet her after school and offer to call the police anonymously. But she didn’t let me. And she told me not to involve other neighbours in this. They left India eventually. I wonder what became of her.. I really do wish I could have helped in some way. But it’s difficult to help people who don’t want your help.

  • Nandita.

    Haha. That made me LOL.
    It’s easier said than done, though!Recommend

  • Anum Hussain

    lol very good idea :)Recommend

  • Parvez

    I would say that doing nothing….is not an option.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I would say that doing nothing….is not an option.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    stockholm syndrome. The wife of the abuser thinks that it is her fault that she is being abused and that her husband is always right. She will go to great lengths to ensure his survival.
    I would personally like to catch this guy on a quite corner late at night and give him the compound fractures he so rightly deserves.Recommend

  • http://www.sepia-paper.deviantart.com Muhammed Waqar Younis

    I should buy disposable Cartoon masks just in case once I leave to some other place myself, There was once a thing like this going on in a nearby house and it was about the Kids however, That Parents both were beating them up pretty badly and it was horrifying and one day one of the kid cut his finger off or something and both the parents were fighting hysterically with one another over car keys and yelling out “He had get his finger CUTT OFF!!” it was horrifying but nobody in my room paid heed to what was going on instead they said “They are doing the Usual”…Recommend

  • zero

    you always have a say no matter how insignificant you think you are, ive had the luck of being in a household where my dad would regularly physically abuse my mother right in front of me… took it for 15 years, spent everyday thinking this is how it is, this is how everyones home is, i dnt have to do anything, they will sort it out, till one day i got up and pushed him back, i didnt beat him jst kept pushing him back when he kept coming for her, he kicked me out of the house, i left without any reasoning two days later he called me to come back and to this day, he hasnt touched my mother again :)
    the point being a tyrant will never know how wrong he is till hes told its wrong, people can change you jst have to give them a nudge. i hope my story gives someone else in my situation the courage to do what needs to be done…Recommend

  • Saher

    And I thought the story will end saying the sounds were from TV!Recommend

  • Milind A

    10 years back I came across a survey in India, wherein above 70% of Indian women suffered abuse at the hands of their husbands.. The strange part was most (over 65%) of the respondents (women) in the survey justified wife-beating under certain conditions (whatever that’s supposed to mean)…
    Lo.. karlo baat… and we’re supposed to jump in and “help” them out…Recommend